Tending to your own needs can often be the last thing on your mind. Life is loaded with responsibilities, obligations and things you really don’t want to do but do out of necessity. In-between long hours at work and running endless errands, you probably find yourself feeling frustrated that you don’t give yourself the same level attention as you do to, say, paying your bills. While taking care of your utility costs is essential, so is taking time to focus on yourself and engage in a bit of self-care (1).
Most people go about their days without taking a second to stop and wonder whether they are doing what is best for their bodies, minds and spirits. The problem is so prevalent, that researchers have spent years analyzing how a lack of attention to the self can be damaging to people who work in medical and legal fields (2). Luckily, figuring out a solution is as simple as remembering to take care of some of the basic functions of your body.
Here are five simple ways to make time for self-care.
1. Be Mindful
The first tip on how to practice self-care cuts right to the core of the matter: mindfulness. Purposefully focusing on the present moment is one of the most difficult tasks a person can be asked to perform, even though it only requires stopping actions and thoughts for a few minutes. Mindfulness might be hard to achieve because “our brains really like stimulation,” wrote Gary L. Wenk, professor of neuroscience, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University, in Psychology Today (3). Biologically, the human mind responds well to stimulation. Sadly, this information is also used a lot with creating advertisements.
While marketing professionals and the media as a whole assume bombarding the senses with videos, images and text is the best way to grab attention, all of the noise might be in vain. According to several studies conducted in recent years, the same over-stimulation distracting you from mindfulness may actually make people less likely to buy products or further research services (4). If you can wade through the madness and find a moment of serenity, you’re heading in the right direction for self-care.
2. Pinpoint Problems and Distractions
Distractions are a problem to both mindfulness and the idea of self-care. The more your attention is split between different tasks, the more impossible it becomes for you to slow down and focus on the present. Though you might not be able to actively change the world and how many distractions are thrown at you in a single day, you can definitely do your best to keep your head above the water. You simply need to get into the right habits and stick with them.
What distracts you individually is going to be different than what distracts someone else. The first step toward eliminating what breaks your focus is by figuring out the exact culprits. If you tend to laze in front of the television and watch endless streaming programs after work when you should be focused on yourself, the problem is somewhat evident. Pinpoint your biggest distractors and work toward cutting back on these habits or eliminating them altogether. You might really want to binge that show, but you’ll feel better taking care of your own needs before anything else.
3. Eat Better Food
OK, so this is going to sound obvious: you need to eat better. While most people try to pay attention to the ingredients in what they buy or want to know the source of meat or produce, these details are not as important to your diet as the actual act of eating. You definitely want to make sure you don’t eat too many processed foods, sure, but it is more important to eat something when your body gives you the impulse. Eating when you’re hungry, regardless of the meal, might help your body create energy and regulate hunger overall (5).
The reason for this is simple: survival. Your body is designed to work the best when it is being given sustenance and nourishment. Ignoring hunger pangs because you can’t find organic options is working against your health in subtle ways. Unless you always have access to the specific snacks and meals you prefer, you need to make compromises now and again for the benefit of your health. This doesn’t mean you need to hit fast food when you feel pangs of hunger, you just need to remember you might not find exactly what you want.
4. Take a Stroll
Getting out of your house is also a fantastic move to make when you want to practice a little bit of care. Some people enjoy the great outdoors and some people find all the fresh air to be too much. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest taking a walk outside can do wonders for your wellness. The act of walking is enough to engage your cardiovascular system and keep oxygenated blood flowing (6), but that is only the beginning.
In Japanese culture, there is a popular activity known as forest bathing (7). Essentially, the mentality behind this action is to simply exist within a forest and see how it improves a person’s mood, ability to think and overall health. Research on forest bathing suggests it can do wonders for a person’s overall feelings of wellness (8). Some studies believe this actually has to do with the green found in the leaves of each tree (9). No matter the reason, experiencing a bit of nature for your health seems like a sensible choice.
5. Get Sleep
The idea of getting extra sleep can be laughable to people who have packed schedules. Still, the whole point of this article is to remind you to take care of yourself! No matter how busy you might be, you absolutely must get a full night of rest. Consistent sleep is incredibly important to your physiology. Without ample sleep, you are increasing the odds of developing a number of psychological and cardiovascular disorders (10). You might even die far sooner by pushing sleep off (11). Whatever you need to do can actually wait when the time comes to snooze.
If you have a difficult time sleeping, there are plenty of tactics to explore. Essential oils might be the natural, effective solution you have been searching for. As long as you stay aware of the importance of sleeping, eating and engaging in healthy practices, you are going to have a far easier time showing yourself the self-love you deserve.